Dean, Faculty of Radiation Oncology
The review of the radiation oncology items within the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) is well underway. Our College has a number of members (from both radiation oncology and radiology) on the MBS Oncology Clinical Committee (OCC) which includes both medical and radiation oncology, of the MBS Review Taskforce
The Faculty is providing input into the MBS review through its MBS Review Working Group, chaired by Dr Liz Kenny. One of the first tasks of the radiation oncology working group has been to review a list of infrequently used/potentially obsolete radiation oncology items identified by the Department of Health (DoH).
The Faculty recommended to the OCC that a two-part payment model (planning/dosimetry, and per attendance treatment/verification) with added levels of complexity would be an appropriate funding model. The Faculty is now in the process of drafting a proposal for the most suitable levels of complexity for both radiation therapy and brachytherapy. The proposal will be provided to the OCC for consideration.
The Faculty is keen to see the MBS items for radiation oncology simplified and more reflective of current practice. To this end, we will continue to work closely with the DoH and the MBS Review Taskforce, to hopefully ensure the ongoing provision of accessible and affordable quality radiation oncology services to our patients.
The Radiation Oncology Practice Standards (the Standards), which were published in 2011, provide a framework of requirements to assist radiation therapy facilities to achieve best practice across various domains (e.g. machine calibration, documentation, safety and quality improvement). The Faculty has been advocating for the implementation of the Standards in all facilities in Australia and New Zealand. However, Queensland is the only jurisdiction which has formally adopted the Standards to date.
In response to the MBS Review Consultation at the end of 2015, the Faculty listed mandatory national implementation of the Standards as one of the priorities for government consideration.
The Radiation Oncology Tripartite Committee has established a Standards Working Group to progress the implementation of the Standards. As a first step, the group has developed a self-assessment tool to assist facilities in reflecting on their own quality management systems and assessing how well they currently comply with the Standards.
The Standards Working Group is also exploring the opportunity of working with the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS) to map the Radiation Oncology Practice Standards against the National Standards, and develop an accreditation plan.
The Radiation Oncology Targeting Cancer campaign aims to increase awareness of radiation therapy as an effective, safe and sophisticated treatment for cancer, among cancer patients and their families, as well as health professionals, in particular general practitioners (GPs). The campaign has made steady process in various areas, including GP education programs and social media presence.
GP Education Evenings provide GPs with the opportunity to learn about the role of radiation therapy for their patients at their local radiation therapy departments. To complement this, several GP-focused articles on radiation therapy have been published in Australian Doctor and Australian Family Physician.
A/ Prof Sandra Turner, the clinical lead of the Targeting Cancer campaign, has been talking about modern radiation therapy for prostate cancer at the HealthEd seminars held in major capital cities in Australia. These seminars, scheduled between August and November 2016, have attracted several thousand GPs.
HealthEd is the biggest health professional education provider in Australia and these one-day seminars provide practical, clinical, up to date information for GPs. This is an incredible opportunity to reach out to the larger GP community and improve their knowledge of radiation therapy, to help ensure that cancer patients are fully informed about all their treatment options.
We are delighted that the Targeting Cancer website won the Best in Class award in the Interactive Media Awards for Healthcare category, and was the Gold Winner for the prestigious Sydney Design Awards in the EdTech category. It is hoped that the website will become the most trusted source of information about radiation therapy for cancer patients and their families, as well as for other health professionals, especially GPs.
The results of the prostate testing for cancer and treatment (ProtecT) trial were recently published in two papers in the New England Journal of Medicine. This trial, which compared prostate cancer treatment options head-to-head, showed that curative radiation therapy was equally likely to control the cancer as surgical prostate removal. There was also no difference in overall quality of life between radiation therapy and surgery, but less urinary incontinence and sexual problems after radiation therapy.
This study strongly supports the importance of patients with localised prostate cancer knowing about all their treatment options by talking to a radiation oncologist as well as an urologist before they decide on a treatment or to proceed with surveillance. A/Prof Sandra Turner was interviewed by ABC News 24 on 16 September, to talk about the study findings. More details and the interview are available from the Targeting Cancer website.